What is Branding?-Brand Management

In the last episode, I wrote about things you should know before you start freelancing, to kick off this episode, I'd like to define what a brand is as it relates to you as a freelancer. However before I do that, it’s important to note that I am writing purely based on personal experience and some research. Everything I write is based on what I have done or currently doing, so feel free to see this as merely advisory and not something you have to do or follow.  Ultimately, I am certain you can at least learn how not to do things a certain way (learn from my failures).

What is a brand?

A brand is an identifier. To be known for something is to be branded with or for that thing. A brand is a uniqueness that you have attached to an entity or service to allow easy identification. 

You are a brand. Or, you should be a brand. You should be known for something, you should offer a uniqueness that makes you stand out from others. There are millions of freelancers, but what would you be known for in your freelancing job? 

To give some context, while actively working as a freelancer, I had many challenges - many of which hurt my brand. Unfortunately, I did not see myself as a brand. If you see yourself as a brand, there are many things you would not get involved in, and there are things you would be involved in just because it’s good for your brand (even if you don’t really enjoy it). Of all the things that hurt my brand, one that I'd like to share is accepting jobs and not delivering as expected.

As freelancers, we are always happy to accept jobs, whether we have the time or expertise to effectively do them or not. Frankly, this is an understandable issue mostly because many freelancers don’t get a constant inflow of jobs, and when they do get, they want to keep as many as possible. Unfortunately, if you don’t learn how to manage them, you’ll end up hurting your brand rather than helping it. In another issue, we’ll explore this topic further: “How to manage multiple time-consuming jobs as a freelancer”.

Let me conclude this section by stating that before you accept a job, you must ask yourself this fundamental question: “will this help or hurt my brand?”.  To answer that, consider the following:

  1. Can you deliver the expectations of the client as at when due?
  2. Can you defend the work when called to do so?
  3. Does the job go with the philosophy of your brand? 
  4. Will the client be able to recommend you for more jobs or call you back for more jobs?

You need to frankly answer all the above questions before you accept that freelance job.  Of the four questions though, the third one is probably the most difficult because it requires you to cause a separation between who you are and your brand. To give a very popular example, during NYSC a “Christian” corp member refused to wear the assigned uniform because it is against her religious views to wear such as a lady. The problem is,  she failed to separate who she is as an individual from her brand. 

As a person, I’ll probably not be caught wearing anything that’s too short outside, but as a brand, it doesn’t stop me from working with a firm that produces such. As a person, I don’t like listening to certain genres of music, but that doesn’t stop my brand from working with a producer that works on such a genre.  These are just some examples, but I hope you get the point? Personally, where I draw the line is hurting people directly or indirectly.  For example, as a person and a brand, I won’t work with a Ponzi scheme company, nor any other company that is involved in “Manipulating ”, cheating or hurting people. 

The concluding point of this section is: you need to create a brand philosophy. Your philosophy does not necessarily need to be equal to who you are. Let me give one final example to buttress this point.  As an introvert, there are things I won’t do, like attending events, speaking at events, and so on; but if as an introvert I run a brand, and my brand was to get an award from a prominent organization, I’ll put aside my introverted nature, and do what is good for my brand by attending the award event and accepting the award. 

Developing a brand

Start by selecting a good, easy to remember, and unique name:

Most of the time it’s good to have a name that is attached to meaning. Sometimes I’ve been asked what “xyluz” means, and usually my explanation leads to more “oh wow, nice!”.  Although it is not required, it doesn’t hurt to select a name that means something to you.

Use the name everywhere:

When I first started using "xyluz" as a brand name, many people felt skeptical about it, “what is zailuz?” (I got that question a lot), but, after a little research I realized how much SEO I would have if I could build that name, so I never changed it. I used the name everywhere to build a brand around it. 

Buy the domain name:

When I selected "xyluz", the domain name was not available, so I bought “xyluz developers” instead.,  However, I set up a back-alert, and 2 years later, the owner of xyluz.com didn’t renew, and that was how I was able to get the domain. I went through that because having the domain name was a definite advantage to my brand -  and it was worth it! 

Setup Social Media around the name:

As much as possible, I use the same name for all my social media accounts  This has been very helpful in the way people find me.

To conclude this episode, I’d like to say, don’t be too quick to select a name.  And when you select one, do some sampling  - use it in some places (smaller groups) and see how people react to it.  A note of caution though is that your brand name might mean something inappropriate in other languages,  so you don’t want to be associated with that in the respective region. Check out Things you Should Know before you Start Freelancing; my first episode.

Originally published on Seyi Onifade's newsletter, follow him here.

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